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Insights into a Remarkable Life Story of an NFL All-Star Pro Quarterback
As the National Spokesman since 1995, the name Steve Bartkowski has been closely associated with Christian Sportsmen's Fellowship in many ways to inspire sportsmen through the media as well as personal appearances at the Shot Show in Las Vegas along with numerous church sportsmen's banquets across America. A great role model for outdoorsmen, you are first and foremost a committed follower of Jesus Christ who "lives our before others what God has done on the inside"!
As a dedicated family man you have served most prominently through the years in a leadership role as a husband and father bringing great encouragement to other men in navigating life's many joys and disappointments. As an All-Star pro quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons you also served as an icon in athletics by excelling in the very competitive world of the National Football League in racking up some very impressive game passing statistics.
The readers of The Christian Sportsman magazine look forward to this article and thank you for the insightful highlights on a life well lived by one of our nation's true heroes in the Christian faith and leaders within the outdoors community. Let's jump right into the questions!
Most recently, you were inducted into the College Football Hall-of-Fame located in Atlanta, Georgia. I am sure many past memories of your college football experience flashed across your mind. Tell us about your early years at Cal-Berkley?
I fondly remember my time at Cal. I set out with the goal of bringing the program back to respectability and relevance. I think we accomplished that during my time there.
What was it like growing up in Des Moines Iowa then moving to sunny California? Tell us about your formative interests, hobbies and college education?
It was a move from the country to the big city for me. I love my early years in Iowa and missed the hunting and fishing opportunities that I so cherished there. Sports was always my first priority and what I lived for. My dad was an "around the clock" incredible coach and mentor for me. He was great at keeping me on track toward my ultimate goal which was to be a pro athlete. California was a more challenging and competitive sports environment and I think that being there really helped me get better as an athlete. Although, I really missed the access to the outdoors that I had in Iowa.
While playing quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons for over ten years what was it like during the height of each season as you as you experienced both victory and defeat? What we some of your career statistics?
The average person has no idea how hard it is to win consistently in the NFL. I had some really good teams over a few years and some not so good teams during my career. As a quarterback one thing you learn very quickly is the you are only as good as the people around you. The more good ones you have the better your results. Football is definitely the ultimate team game.
As a dedicated family man I know your deep commitment to your wife, sons and growing extended family. Tell us about your relationship with Sandee and your two boys?
Family, is and has always been, the most important aspect of my life. Sandee has been the most incredible helpmate and completer that I could have ever asked for...she is amazing! An awesome mom to my boys Philip and Peter and with them now out of the house and on their own she finally has the freedom to pursue her own career in photography. She's extremely talented and I'm so excited for her to have the chance to go for it. Philip is married to a wonderful gal, Robyn, and they blessed us with an amazing granddaughter 9 years ago named Rane. Two months ago Peter quit his job as a superintendent for DPR Construction, the company that both Philip and I work for, and moved to Montana to further pursue his love of the outdoors. I am very happy for him and envy him greatly. As a family we have always loved the manifold outdoor opportunities offered up by that great state.
How did your parents, especially your dad, invest quality and quantity time with you during your formative years?
My dad was a tremendous influence on me in every kind of way you can think of. When I shared with him what I wanted to be when I grew up...he bought in fully. He was a professional athlete himself playing baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization for nine years. He gave up all of his freedom and personal time and went "all in" to help me reach my goals. And in pursuit of that goal he taught me how to be a man...the kind of man that would make any dad proud. I owe him everything and only hope that my boys will think as highly of me as I think of my Pop.
Who were some of your role models and sports heroes?
Probably goes without saying that my dad was my role model...he downloaded me with everything I needed to be a successful human being. My sports heroes were Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. And let me add Curt Gowdy...always thought he had the ultimate job as host of The American Sportsman.
If you had taken the baseball career route how would life have been differently as a pro athlete? Length of your career, compensation, opportunity to excel, etc.? I always wonder about that...baseball was always my favorite sport. Who knows the answer to all that might have come from that choice? I am still a huge baseball fan...Go Braves!
What have been some of your greater life challenges off the field especially as you are approaching the "Golden Years" season? We as men need challenges...it's how we grow in life. My biggest challenge came after retiring from football. It took me a few years of trying to find something that would reignite the passion within me that was lost after stepping away from the game. I finally found what I was looking for in the company I work for DPR Construction. It was the perfect match for me...like football, building a construction project is the ultimate team effort. It's been a really fun ride.
Why have you prioritized speaking opportunities across the country found in addressing sportsmen during church "Wild Game Banquets"?
If you love the outdoors, we can be friends. Anyone who enjoys what God has created for us has something deep down inside of them that recognizes there is a Sovereign Creator of all this splendor. So, wild game dinners become fertile soils for us, who have the "keys to the Kingdom" to share the gospel of our Lord. The table has been set, so to speak, deep within sportsmen and women...the Creator has readied the harvest.
Regarding God's grace and living the Christian life from the heart rather than through religious performance, what do you believe are some of the greatest identity struggles facing men?
Christian men and women alike need to more fully understand and appropriate Galatians 2:20. The war against sin and judgment has been won and it is up to each of us learn to walk in the Spirit and allow Him to live out His life through the members of our flesh. And for Him to confront and convert others through our the testimony of: His death/my death...therefore, His life/my life! Get out of the way and allow Him full control of the entirety of our lives. Pretty simple but very, very deep!
Since your sons fit into the millennial generation age between 18 to 34, what do you believe are the greatest spiritual challenges facing this growing demographic population in America?
It's the same war everyone is engaged in...the fight against the one who would have us put our own needs and desires ahead of all else. The desire we all have is to achieve happiness and fulfillment in life. It's easy to get caught up into thinking that we might find it in things. Things like a great job making lots of money where we are able to buy stuff that we think might make us happier or more fulfilled. But the truth is that we will never find what we are looking for if we submit to this philosophy...the end will never justify the means. There is only one truth that can satisfy our heart...seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.